OBJECTIVE--To determine the prevalence of Chlamydia trachomatis infection in women attending a family planning clinic in Papua New Guinea, in the period between April and June 1991. SETTING--The outpatient department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Port Moresby General Hospital, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, the departments of Dermato-Venereology and Clinical Microbiology of the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands and the National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection, Bilthoven, The Netherlands. PATIENTS--A total of 254 consecutive women who attended the family planning clinic at Port Moresby General Hospital, Papua New Guinea were enrolled into this study. METHODS--Cervical infections with C trachomatis were diagnosed using the direct immunofluorescent assay (DFA) and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Serum IgM and IgG antibodies directed against C trachomatis were detected using the enzyme-linked fluorescent assay (ELFA). RESULTS--The prevalence of C trachomatis was 14.6% using the PCR, 9.1% using the DFA and 17.3% when the results of the PCR and the DFA were combined. An elevated IgM titre was observed in 14.2% of the women, whereas 44.1% had an elevated IgG titre. The titres of IgM or IgG were significantly higher in women who were positive using the PCR or the DFA than in those who were negative in both the PCR and the DFA (p = 0.032 and p = 0.0046, respectively). CONCLUSION--Cervical infection by C trachomatis can be considered a major health problem in at least the studied population in Papua New Guinea. The prevalence of C trachomatis infection is at least comparable with that in groups with a high prevalence in industrialized countries. Effective screening and treatment programmes are imperative to combat this problem.
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